click here for story
Ever wonder what good guitars, really good guitars, are made of?
It's hard to believe but some of the finest handcrafted guitars being produced today are using wood from logs that have been submerged in rivers and lakes for 100 years or just as interesting, been part of buildings for that same time period.
Brazilian Rosewood, a very rare hardwood from South America, and Sinker Redwood, literally from sunken logs, are two materials prized in the making of quality handcrafted guitars.
Mineola, Texas luthier Michael Kerry swears by both, having used each of them as well as a dozen or so other woods from around the world as he works in his shop, which is located just 75 miles east of Dallas.
Kerry is an artist though he struggles and laughs at his own inability to draw. I could never draw a straight line to save my life, he said. Luckily for him, he adds, there are no straight lines in a guitar.
The 55-year-old Kerry has worked with wood much of his life, loves music, plays the guitar a little and was introduced to the concept of building a guitar by an uncle who provided some plans. That was in the 1980s and he didn't exactly jump at the opportunity but when he did, the results turned out so well, Kerry says with a smile, his son took the guitar he created off to college with him.
Each guitar he's built since then, he said, brings me a happiness that is almost spiritual.
Guitars, it turns out, are a passion for Kerry and others.
I want to have something to show for my time here and who knows, 100 years from now they may still be here.
Building them is a slow process for him. Much of what he does is done the old fashioned way. He uses a Go Bar Deck to secure pieces of wood while glue dries.
The system incorporates the use of several dowel rods that are used at strategic points to exert pressure on the wood pieces that are being glued.
Kerry said everything one does to the wood changes the tone of the final product and as he sands the wood to a final thickness he is aware that one can go too far. You take it to the limit, he said. There is a line you can cross over and lose it.
When the wanted thickness of the wood has been reached and moisture and heat are applied, it can be bent into the shape he wants.
By the time the wood work is completed and the 18 coats of lacquer have been applied, there are still two weeks remaining before he can begin sanding and finally polishing for the high gloss finish some customers prefer.
There are, he said, between 150 and 200 hours in each guitar.
Lots of people find happiness in money but I'm not there, he said casually.
His art is his passion and he's comfortable with those thoughts.
In case you've ever wondered how much wood costs, well, Kerry said guitar wood is sold in sets and a back and side set is four pieces. Brazilian Rosewood can range from $600 to $2,000 depending on the grade. Top sets, such as Sinker Redwood are sold in sets of two pieces which can range from $80 to $200.
Kerry can be reached by visiting his website. Just Google Elijah Jewel Guitars.